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Book Review: The Golden Legend by Nadeem Aslam

By Imteyaz Alam

golden-legendTitle: The Golden Legend
Author: Nadeem Aslam
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Pages: 376
Price: Rs 599

Reading Nadeem Aslam is like living with the characters of his novel. The words keep echoing, the scenes keep flashing and the characters stay with the readers much after one finishes the book. The author has a penchant for detailing scenes, events, emotions and expressions in his writings. The reader experiences and visualizes colour, smell, sound, pain, fury, and cries, smiles, and laughs in the course of reading his stories. In fact, the portrayal is so vivid and engrossing that the reader is transported to the imaginary world created by the writer. Without rousing the sentiments, the author lets readers simmer with the empathy and sympathy for the characters.

“Many things in my books come from real life; but a novelist has to be careful in transporting a real event into the landscape of a novel. It is patient work, like moving a lake from one place to another with a teaspoon,” writes Nadeem Aslam about his own craftThe writer of five novels including Maps of Lost Lovers and The Blind Man’s Garden, and the winner of several coveted awards, has powerful context and content in his writings. His technique is that of meticulous weaver birds, of a master chef, of a music composer and of a brilliant painter. His sentences are lyrical, profound and precise. No word is out of place, no sentence is out of context. He involves the reader by the gripping content and by powerful imagery. Reading stirs the heart and mind. No wonder if he is associated with several literary movements; realism, postmodernism, imagism, and post colonialism.

Nadeem Aslam migrated to England from Pakistan at the age of 13 with his communist father who escaped persecution at the hands of General Zia-ul-Haq’s regime. He enrolled at college but dropped out, never to complete it. He lives in England but closely monitors the development in South Asia. The same is reflected in his writings too.

The Golden Legend is a timely, relevant and captivating novel. The story, set in the fictional city of Zamana in Pakistan, covers religious extremism, hatred and intolerance in society. There is a suffocating environment for religious minorities and also for liberals. The hatred in the society is so ingrained that even an eleven-year-old refuses to accept a drink from Helen, a Christian lady. Later on, the boy sneaks in, wielding a knife to attack and check whether Helen has a different colour of blood, as told to him by his mother.

Margaret adopts the Muslim name Nargis and wears a false identity all her life to avoid harassment, and remains in disguise. Massud, a fellow architect, falls in love with her in college and marries her. The architect couple later on employs Lilly and Grace for help in their work. Helen, daughter of Grace and Lilly receives the best possible education in Zamana with the help of the architect couple. Grace is killed by a person who is freed from jail when he memorizes the Quran in jail. Massud is killed in crossfire during an assassination attempt on an American citizen. The American retaliates by reckless firing that kills Massud and others. Later on, Nargis is tortured by a General from military intelligence to pardon the American and accept blood money invoking sharia law. A young Kashmiri terrorist, Imran flees from training camp in Zamana when he realizes that militants of training are up to brutal killings. He donates blood to Massud and later on comes closer to Nargis and Helen. Aysha, daughter of a cleric is widowed when her husband is killed in an American drone attack in Waziristan. Being a martyr’s wife she is prohibited to remarry. She falls in love with Lilly. The city Zamana is facing a dreadful new phenomenon that the secrets of people are revealed by a mysterious man from a mosque’s loudspeaker. One day, the loudspeaker announces the affair of Aysha and Lilly. Lilly escapes but the wrath of believers fall on his fellow Christians. Nargis, Helen and Imran escape when the frenzied crowd attacks Nargis’s house. They take refuge on an island designed and developed by Massud and Nargis.

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Book review: Where death plays like a broken record

By Meghna Pant

small townAnees Salim’s new novel The Small-Town Sea is the story of an unnamed boy in an unnamed town who grapples with the consequences of his unnamed father’s death.

The novel begins ominously enough. On the first page itself the 13-year-old narrator loses his father, referred to only as Vappa. The rest of the first half is narrated as a flashback where the cancer-stricken Vappa, nostalgic in the face of imminent death, decides to leave the unnamed city where he resides with his family and return to the unnamed town where he grew up.

Vappa longs to get a front-page obituary that transcends the boundaries of his small town and artistic insecurities. You see, he is an almost famous author who has won an unnamed, but almost famous, award for which he is convinced he must be acknowledged in life as in death. Hedonism of the writer? Understandable. Halfway through the book he finally gets the obituary he wants only to have it turned into a paper cone for peanuts later that day. Such is our ephemeral life. Read more

Source: The Asian Age


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What to read in 2017

By Palash Krishna Mehrotra

Is any year a good year for books? Despite doomsday predictions, the book is alive and kicking. Here’s a list of titles to look out for in 2017, from all God’s publishers, big and small.

The God of Small Things came out in my last year of college in 1997. Two decades later, as I sit perched on the cusp of middle-age, Arundhati Roy returns with her new novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Has she changed; have we changed? We shall find out soon.

Among other novels from Penguin Random House India, there’s Nadeem Aslam’s The Golden Legend, set in contemporary Pakistan; Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West,a love story set against the backdrop of the international refugee crisis; and Perumal Murugan’s Seasons of the Palm, the story of a young untouchable farmhand. In his novel, Friend of My Youth, a meditation on the passage of time, Amit Chaudhuri treads the fine line between fiction and non-fiction and emerges with a sensitive commemoration of Bombay and an unusual friendship. Read more

Source: DailyO


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Has publishing really become more diverse?

By Danuta Kean

Courttia Newland has been here before. In 1997, it seemed as if the British book industry might finally have recognised it was out of step with the multicultural society that surrounded it. Writers of colour including Newland, Zadie Smith and Monica Ali were picking up sizable advances as the trade promised a step change. No longer would the doors of London publishers be time machines, transporting the unwary from one of the world’s most diverse cities to a monoculture that was a throwback to the 1950s. The books and the people who published them were going to be different.

Twenty years on, as the industry launches another drive for inclusivity, Newland is not holding his breath. “We are really wary because we have seen it all before,” he says. “A few people are championed and then people lose interest because they think the issue has been addressed. And then it all reverts back to the way it was before.” Read more

Source: The Guardian 

 


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New Release: Thing to Leave Behind by Namita Gokhale

leave-behindThings to Leave Behind follows the intertwined story of spirited Tilottama Uprety, whose uncle is hanged during the ‘Mutiny’, her troubled daughter, Deoki, missionary Rosemary Boden and Deoki’s husband, Jayesh Jonas, into Boden’s utopian Eden Ashram where artist William Dempster seeks out new Indias. At its heart lies one singular painting: a portrait of love, longing and courage.

Set in the years 1840 to 1912, Things to Leave Behind chronicles the mixed legacy of the British Indian past and the emergence of a fragile modernity. The book is published by Penguin.

Illuminated with painstaking detail, told with characteristic narrative skill, this compelling historical novel—the final one in the Himalayan trilogy, after A Himalayan Love Story and The Book of Shadows—is Namita Gokhale’s most ambitious work yet.

About the Author

Namita Gokhale has authored thirteen books—seven works of fiction and six works of non-fiction. She is founder and co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival, and the Bhutan literary festival, Mountain Echoes.

 


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Penguin unfolds ‘Season of Stories’

By Rituparna Mahapatra

Storytelling could have never been more interesting. The brilliant minds at Penguin have come up with a novel idea to sprinkle our lives and emails with a pixie dust of interesting tales.The stressful office emails can take a back seat

Their goal is to make your inbox a better , happier place- one story at a time.

Beginning October 11th, till December , they will email eleven fiction stories directly to you. All you have to do is sign up for it, which is very simple. You just have to provide your email id. You’ll receive a fragment of a story, one day at a time , till the full narrative wraps up just before the weekend. The stories are free and are exclusively available only on emails. If you have registered late , not a problem ; they provide you with a catch-up link, with a note : The catch-up link will expire every Saturday at midnight EST. From then on, the story will live only in your memory (and in your email).

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Reading the world

Penguin Random House’s CEO is excited to bring foreign titles to China and Chinese literature to the globe. Mei Jia reports.

Markus Dohle knew he has “the best job in the world” when Dan Brown knocked on his office door in 2008.

The CEO of the world’s largest trade-book publisher, Penguin Random House, was then CEO of Random House. It was five years before the two groups merged when the best-selling writer popped in to meet Dohle. Read more


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Sanjiv Gupta appointed COO Penguin Random House in India

CEO Gaurav Shrinagesh today announced the appointment of Sanjiv Gupta as Chief Operating Officer for Penguin Random House in India.  Currently the company’s Senior VP Finance and Operations, Sanjiv will continue to have strategic and operational responsibility of finance, operations, IT and administrative departments as well as expanding his role to drive business growth and profitability.

Sanjiv joined Penguin Books India in 2011 and has worked for over two decades across a spectrum of industries including automobiles, aerospace, electronics, business process outsourcing, agriculture, and real estate. Before his career with Penguin, he led operations in India for Masonite Doors and has previously worked with Hines India Real Estate, the Bharti Group, Honeywell International and Honda Cars, in various roles.

 

 

 


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Penguin Random House partners with Twitter Books India: #twolittlebirds

Furthering its commitment to connecting its authors with the widest possible audience, Penguin Random House in India this evening partnered with Twitter India to announce the introduction of their Twitter Books vertical in the country.

At their party at the Jaipur Literature Festival, Penguin Random House became the first publisher in the region to be verified by Twitter on their @penguinbooksindia handle.  A number of Penguin Random House authors, including Shobhaa De, Amitav Ghosh, Ravinder Singh, Durjoy Datta, Mohammed Hanif, Devdutt Pattanaik, Bibek Debroy and KR Meera have also become the first authors to be verified within the new books vertical. Meru Gokhale, Editor-in-Chief, Literary Publishing, has been the first publisher to be verified.

Through the Twitter Books vertical, Penguin Random House will work closely with its writers to maximise the opportunities the platform presents, both in terms of written content and video through Vine and Periscope, to engage in even more real-time conversations with readers, and potential readers.

Penguin Random House will not only use the platform to expand its writers’, existing reach but also introduce new authors to the medium.  This evening India’s most loved author Ruskin Bond joined twitter under the verified Twitter handle @RealRuskinBond. His first Tweet read: “Hello World. Delighted to be on Twitter”

“Authors and readers are at the heart of everything we do at Penguin Random House, and we are dedicated to helping the two connect as easily and directly as possible,” said Gaurav Shrinagesh, CEO Penguin Random House India.  “In an increasingly digital world, the online space has fast become the most effective way of discovering books and authors.  We already have the largest digital footprint and engaged social media communities in the region but are delighted to now be working with Twitter India and their new books vertical to broaden this audience further.”

 


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Penguin Books India acquires major new work by Ramachandra Guha

ramchandra guhaPenguin Random House has announced the acquisition of Democrats and Dissenters, a major new collection of essays by Ramachandra Guha.  This is a work of rigorous scholarship on topics of compelling contemporary interest, written with elegance and wit. Each essay takes up an important topic, or an influential intellectual, as a window to explore major political and cultural debates in India and the world.

The book covers a wide range of themes: from the varying national projects of India’s neighbours to political debates within India itself, from the responsibilities of writers to the complex relationship between democracy and violence. It has essays critically assessing the work of Amartya Sen and Eric Hobsbawm, essays on the tragic predicament of tribals in India (who are, as Guha demonstrates, far worse off than Dalits or Muslims, yet get a fraction of the attention), and on the peculiar absence of a tradition of conservative intellectuals in India. Continue reading